Tom Gresham took a call on GunTalk radio recently from a new shooter who purchased a Ruger 10/22 and wondered what was the best ammo to shoot out of it. It sounded like he bought the gun for survival purposes and was talking about wanting to be able to shoot a squirrel if necessary for food. Tom is a wealth of information, but he had nothing for this guy other than to try a bunch of ammo and see what shoots best. the caller never hunted before, but guessed that he'd likely need to make a kill at between 20 - 40 yards. He was right about that. Not much chance of hitting something the size of a squirrel with iron sights much further out. Especially for a novice.
I wish the guy was able to leave some contact info so I could have given him an answer. Here's my thoughts on it in case he's checking around and runs into this blog...
I've discovered through range testing that at 20 - 25 yards, all ammo shoots just about the same. In fact, I was amazed that what I consider junk bulk ammo shot almost as good as the much more expensive ammo. As the target goes out to 50 yards you'll see the minor variations in quality magnified immensely. Tom was right that you need to try different ammo to see which shoots the best through your rifle. Like I just said, at close range it doesn't matter much, but as the distance increases, you need to do some testing.
I've personally found the CCI Mini Mags shoots great through every rifle that I own. Federal Auto Match Premium bulk ammo works surprisingly good as well. Cheaper ammo like Thunderbolts doesn't shoot bad at all, but it's dirty, leaving a lot of crap in your gun. In a survival situation where you can't clean your gun all that often, that's something to consider. Also think about reliability. I rarely have a misfire with CCI MiniMags, but with Thunderbolts I've run across bad primers. The same is true with all Remington ammo. When you're hungry and need a kill for food, you can't afford to pull the trigger and not have it go bang. Also remember that you need hollow points for hunting. The bullet expansion (mushrooming) creates a much bigger wound, instead of passing straight through the animal like ball ammo would.
Now go out and start shooting. Don't think you are going to buy a Ruger, throw it in the trunk and in an emergency situation be able to fill your stomach with wild game. You need to learn how to shoot and hunt. Your rifle needs to be sighted in with at least a couple types of go-to ammo. I've discovered that in my guns Mini Mags shoot many inches higher than Federal. If you didn't know that and needed supper tonight, you'll be in a lot of trouble. During an ammo shortage Mini Mags will likely be impossible to find, so you need to ready yourself to shoot with whatever you can get your hands on. I'd definitely suggest purchasing a bore laser to sight in your rifle. When the chips are down, you can't afford to waste ammo trying to get your gun sighted in. The laser will get you on paper and then all you'll need do is tweak your sights to get on target.
I hope this was some food for thought and gets you moving forward. Good luck and I hope you'll never need to use that Ruger during a disaster situation. Just go out and have fun with it.